Midwest – No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas St

Posted Mar 16, 2014

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview, Breakdown & Pick: Midwest Region – No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State

- 60-Second Video Analysis On Each Team

Line: Kentucky -5
Why To Pick Kansas State: Which Kentucky is going to show up? Extremely sloppy at times, the Wildcats can't shoot, they don't move the ball, and they go through puzzling lapses on both ends of the court. Kansas State might not be the 1996 Chicago Bulls, but it's a sound team that doesn't screw up.
Why To Pick Kentucky: Which Kentucky is going to show up? Kansas State closed out with three straight clunker losses, while Kentucky has finally decided that it's time to start playing. When UK rams up its defense, the lackluster KSU perimeter game will go dead cold.
The Pick: Kentucky 74-67. There's a dogmeat performance coming somewhere in this tournament from John Calipari's bunch, but it's not going to be in the opener.

Kentucky Wildcats
Head coach: John Calipari Record: 24-10 Conference: SEC

What You Need To Know: The Wildcats have been one of the disappointments in college basketball this season not because they haven't been successful but because they haven't been as successful as expected. UK is laden with talent, but John Calipari hasn't done a great job of getting everyone on the same page. Kentucky far too often plays like five individuals on the court instead of a team, but when the 'Cats come together, they are tough. Forward Julius Randle averages a double-double and is one of the more unstoppable players in college basketball. He's long, he's athletic and he's quick. James Young and the duo of Aaron and Andrew Harrison provide balance to the floor, and the Harrisons do a great job of distributing the ball on the break. Willie Cauley-Stein is experienced and can be a man on the boards, someone who benefits from all the attention that is paid to Randle. When UK can rebound and run, the Wildcats are in good shape. Against tough teams that control the tempo, however, Kentucky will struggle. If they get behind, the Wildcats run into issues thanks to a lack of shooters. The clean slate of the NCAA Tournament could be huge for UK.
Strengths: Rebounding, Blocked Shots, Field Goal Percentage Defense
Weaknesses: Steals, Turnovers, Shooting
How Far Will They Go?: On talent, this could be an easy "sleeper" of an eight seed to jump on. The Wildcats have the potential to beat Kansas State and Wichita State, and then get their doors blown off by Louisville. There will be a few "THAT'S the team" moments, and then regular season Kentucky will show up again.

Kansas State Wildcats
Head coach: Bruce Weber Record: 20-12 Conference: Big 12

What You Need To Know: The Wildcats aren't blessed with great athleticism or shooters, but few teams play as hard as Bruce Weber's squad. They wear down opponents by simply being relentless, and effort is never an issue, never giving up easy baskets while forcing teams to work for everything. Marcus Foster is KSU's top scorer, and his versatility forces team to account for him on every possession. He can knock down the long jumper or drive to the bucket, and he's just a good enough passer to keep teams honest. Thomas Gipson is a banger inside at 6-7, 265 pounds, and his strength allows him to get to balls that others might miss. Will Sprading and Shane Southwell both bring just enough scoring to the floor to keep opponents scrambling on defense.
Strengths: Assists, Field Goal Defense, Assist-Turnover Ratio
Weaknesses: Blocked Shots, Three Point Shooting, Free Throws

How Far Will They Go?: Bruce Weber's team has the make-up to get by Kentucky, and it might be strong enough defensively to match up with Wichita State, but it's not getting out of the first weekend alive.